Jia Yueting is China’s Elon Musk. The self made multi-billionaire has made a fortune selling televisions and smartphones to his countrymen. Now he wants to take some of that money and create extraordinary electric cars to compete with those made by Tesla. Jia’s company, formerly known as LeTV, has been termed “the NetFlix of China.” Once the Chinese had all those electronic devices they bought from LeTV, they need stuff to watch. LeTV created its own production company to supply that content.
LeTV has since changed its name to LeEco. It is expected to pull the wraps off an all-electric concept car called LeSEE at the Beijing auto show that opens April 25. It hopes a production version of the car will will one day compete head to head with the Tesla Model S. LeEco says the concept will be a “smart”, “connected” and “automated self-driving” car. “When everyone is questioning us over our ability to develop a car like this and is laughing at us, we are still able to be here and show you this car. I am so emotional,” Jia said at a LeEco launch event in Beijing on Wednesday.
Jia is a man of vision. He says LeEco is in the process of developing a car sharing business to bolster its green car efforts. But he has another card up his sleeve. Have you ever wondered where all this autonomous driving stuff is headed? Every car company in the world is burning the midnight oil, trying to create cars that drive themselves.
They say the reason is to make us all safer. Computers are more vigilant than humans. Then never stop for a beer on the way home or use recreational drugs. They never get distracted by little Sally spilling Froot Loops all over the back seat. But is that really what this is all about? Give a listen to the words of Jia Yueting and pay heed.
He told his audience in Beijing that someday LeEco cars would be offered free of charge to consumers because the company aims to make money on content and other services it sells through those connected cars. “Our…pricing model will be similar to pricing models for cellphones and TV sets we sell today,” he said. “One day our cars will be free … We are getting there some day.”
Jia is focused on the Chinese market this week, but he is also the principal financial backer of Faraday Future. It celebrated the start of construction on its new factory in North Las Vegas last week with a virtual ground breaking ceremony. No doubt he intends to bring his vision of free automobiles to the American market as well.
So now we know what the future of driving will really be like — endless hours of staring vacantly at a giant touchscreen at content we pay dearly for to keep us from getting bored along the way. Our driving experience will be like an unending Facebook session with a stream of carefully targeted ads popping up as we “drive.” 2 for 1 special at the Pizza Hut, 1.2 miles ahead on the right. Free French fries at McDonald’s, today only. $2.00 off any book at Amazon.com if you order in the next 2 minutes.
It reminds me of the lyrics from a Steely Dan song: “What a beautiful world this will be. What a glorious time to be free.” I just hope they don’t run out of spandex jackets before I get mine.
Source: Reuters via Huffington Post. Photo credit: Damir Sagoli/Reuters